The 'winner' may lose Bolivia's election

If vote-getting appeal means anything, Hernan Siles Zuazo should be Bolivia's next president. He polled 38.74 percent of the popular vote, almost twice his nearest rival, in June 29 presidential balloting -- virtually the same percentage he won in aborted presidential balloting a year earlier.

But Mr. Siles Zuazo is considerably short of an absolute majority. The Bolivian Congress will therefore have to decide the winner. And there is the rub.

The left-leaning Mr. Siles Zuazo's Partido Democratica de Union Popular is 22 votes shy of a majority in the 157-seat Congress and this could tip the scale in favor of second-place candidate Victor Paz Estenssoro, a moderate whose Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) is only 10 votes short of a majority. Congress meets August 4 to decide the issue.

Mr. Siles Zuazo faces another problem. He is anathema to the Bolivian military. Some officers say openly they will never permit Mr. Siles Zuazo to become president. Although the military is not particularly pleased with Mr. Paz Estenssoro and his MNR, they are clearly more acceptable to rank-and-file military officers than Mr. Siles Zuazo and his political allies.

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